Dear Rachel Maddow
by Adrienne Kisner
Publisher: Feiwel & Friends
Release Date: June 5, 2018
Rating: 4 Stars
In Adrienne Kisner’s Dear Rachel Maddow, a high school girl deals with school politics and life after her brother’s death by drafting emails to MSNBC host Rachel Maddow in this funny and heartfelt YA debut.
Brynn Haper’s life has one steadying force–Rachel Maddow.
She watches her daily, and after writing to Rachel for a school project–and actually getting a response–Brynn starts drafting e-mails to Rachel but never sending them. Brynn tells Rachel about breaking up with her first serious girlfriend, about her brother Nick’s death, about her passive mother and even worse stepfather, about how she’s stuck in remedial courses at school and is considering dropping out.
Then Brynn is confronted with a moral dilemma. One student representative will be allowed to have a voice among the administration in the selection of a new school superintendent. Brynn’s archnemesis, Adam, and ex-girlfriend, Sarah, believe only Honors students are worthy of the selection committee seat. Brynn feels all students deserve a voice. When she runs for the position, the knives are out. So she begins to ask herself: What Would Rachel Maddow Do?
Date: September 25
Dear Rachel Maddow,
Is it hard to be famous? Like, does that net you more or fewer friends? You aren’t an actress or whatever. You’re you on TV. Well, you’re you with makeup and no glasses and perfect hair, but still. It’s not like people think they are meeting a character when they see you on the street who are then shocked and come away thinking, “Actually, she’s kind of a dumb- ass who isn’t that into politics.”
At least, I don’t think they do. Maybe they are just like, “Huh, I thought she’d be wearing a blazer.”
Does fame bring you a better quality of friends? Nick’s friends all kind of sucked. Tip from me to you: Being well known for scoring a high does not gain you a lot of quality associations. Most of the assholes didn’t even come to his funeral. Granted, Nick’s parole officer was there and a lot of them probably had stuff to hide, but still. Only two of them, Leigh and Erin, bothered to speak to me.
“Hey, kid,” I think Leigh had said first.
“Hi, honey,” said Erin.
I could count on one hand the number of times we’d spoken before this. “Hi?” I tried.
“Listen, this sucks donkey dicks,” said Leigh.
Erin elbowed him in his side. “What Leigh means is that we’re sorry.
Nick really was a great guy. Even lately . . .”
This was one hot mess of a nice gesture. He hadn’t been great for a long time. We all knew that. And yet, here were two people who had also lost Nick trying to be nice to me, so I wanted them to keep talking forever.
“No, really, Brynn. Really. We saw him, what? A month or two ago? And he talked about you. He was proud you were still in school and on the honor roll. He was real proud of that.” Erin had shaken her head.
“Okay” was all I could think of.
“Here, kid. Take this.” Leigh shoved a folded piece of paper into my hand. “These are our numbers. Text us yours and we’ll keep an eye on you. It’s only right.”
“Okay,” I said again.
They nodded and went to pay their respects to Nick’s closed casket. Not long after that Mom had fainted. Honest to God I think she was faking. But Fart Weasel made a big show over her and growled at me that I had to come home with them. How messed up is that? Though at least
they both came to the funeral.
Sitting here, two years later, dictating this to my laptop, really brings it home. Nick is not coming back. That’s why it’s nice to know you, Rachel. You’ll be there to talk to me for an hour, give or take commercials. Being famous makes you a friend to people you don’t even know about! A friend to shitty, lame-ass people like me, maybe, but that’s what a lot of regular people have anyway. So. Thanks for that.
I have lived my entire “adult” life in a college dormitory working in both Residence Life and college chaplaincy. I like the term “dormitory” better than “residence hall.” I went to school for a long time so that now I get to swoop around in a fancy robe and silly hat (like at Hogwarts). I have an MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults from Vermont College of Fine Arts (a place like Hogwarts). I play both the viola and tennis with more heart than skill. I love my current home in Boston but will always be a Pennsylvanian at heart.